“Tonight it’s all about love,” said actress Florence Henderson during last month’s naming ceremony of the new Regal Princess. Henderson, who took to the podium as master of ceremonies during this particularly special naming ceremony, was, of course, referencing “The Love Boat” and the role it played in Princess Cruises’ history, as well as the selection of the original “Love Boat” cast members as godparents to the 3,560-passenger Regal Princess. The decision to have “The Love Boat” cast as godparents for this particular vessel is significant because the ceremony coincided with the kick-off celebration for Princess Cruises’ 50th anniversary in 2015, and most people would agree that Princess Cruises—and cruising, in general—owes much of its success to “The Love Boat.” As Fred Grandy, who played Gopher, said during “The Love Boat” cast member Q&A on board the Regal Princess, “The show gave accessibility to people who did not think they would ever get on a ship. You were able to transcend the fantasy and get on a cruise with your whole family.” Added Gavin MacLeod, who played Captain Stubing, “The show helped put Princess on a global stage.” In fact, it helped put cruising in general on a global stage, although much since then has changed, with ships outsizing each other, adding more bells and whistles, and partnering with internationally known brands that cater to everyone in the family.
There’s something more subdued about Princess, though. It offers a more time-honored cruising experience, one that caters, said president Jan Swartz during the aforementioned Q&A, to “a meaningful traveler of any age who seeks enriching experiences around the world and who has a passion for life. Princess strives to bring the local culture on board.” That said, Princess Cruises does indeed know how to keep up with the competition and knows that everyone, no matter the age, loves a little morsel of chocolate loving—enter hand-crafted chocolate creations by Norman Love (there’s that word again!).
To bring more joy to the table, Princess Cruises has partnered with master chocolatier and pastry designer Norman Love to create onboard “Chocolate Journeys”—and take it from me, it’s a “journey to heaven” when you bite into Love’s chocolate delights. “Chocolate Journeys” will offer Princess guests Chocolate & Wine Pairings in Vines, Princess’ signature wine bar; Chocolate Dessert Demonstrations; Chocolate Spa Treatments; and Decadent Desserts, 15 chocolate desserts that are offered on a rotational basis in the ships’ main dining rooms, specialty restaurants and Chef’s Table experience.
Another newbie for Princess Cruises is the Discovery at Sea program created in partnership with Discovery Consumer Products. That means guests will have access to interactive onboard activities such as Discovery Under the Stars, during which guests explore the night sky from the ship’s top deck; and immersive shore excursions like panning for gold on the Gold Rush-inspired tour or getting up-close with each destination’s native animals during Animal Planet tours.
The Discovery Under the Stars activity was one of the highlights of the recent Regal Princess sailing I was on and a top recommendation. Here’s a snapshot of some of the other elements that caught my attention:
FIERA: If your clients go to only one Princess Theater show during their cruise, make sure it’s “Fiera.” It’s one of two new productions for Princess and it takes passengers on a cool, retro-style, “steampunkish” journey to the fairgrounds. The costumes alone are spectacular, and the contemporary music selection is “pitch perfect.”
THE SEAWALK: Yes, I admit I’m terrified of heights, so let’s just say it was a bit daunting for me to take a stroll on The SeaWalk, a top-deck, glass-bottomed enclosed walkway that extends 28 ft. beyond the edge of the vessel and affords views of the sea 128 ft. below. Take The SeaWalk both day and night for a completely different (and sometimes dizzying) experience.
ITALIAN DINING PLEASURES: To get the best of the Regal Princess dining experience, tell clients to dig into their pockets for an extra $25 and dine at Sabatini’s, Princess’ signature Tuscan-inspired specialty restaurant. More Italian fare can be had at Alfredo’s, which serves Neapolitan-style pizzas. I ate the Pizza Romana with anchovies and black olives; it was especially good with a thin crust and an overabundance of cheese. The ship offers gelatos, too. Thank god for the onboard fitness classes.
BELLINI’S: The Club 6 nightclub might be ideal for those with dancing feet, but if your clients want to take in all the action of the expansive Piazza—we even caught a dazzling hula hoop performance—then tell them to take a seat at Bellini’s bar.
SPA FAVE: Yes, of course your clients can take their time deciding between a Seaweed or Bamboo massage, or even a Thai Coconut Poultice Massage, and choosing among an array of facials (our therapist was superb and customized the treatment to our individual needs), but what they shouldn’t hesitate on is taking time to enjoy The Enclave. It’s an extra charge and your clients need to decide quickly because space is limited, but this Thermal Suite Experience includes a hammam, a hydro-pool, sensory showers, heated stone beds, and other pampering elements that are ideal for guests who want time to truly relax. It’s a small intimate space, so if your clients opt for this, know that it will be an exclusive experience.
STAY FIT: In addition to an array of workout equipment, the sizable fitness center offers several classes including TRX, a body sculpting boot camp session, yoga, and Pilates. During my sailing, I opted for an early morning yoga class. It was good, but did get a little too cozy for my taste with too many participants in such a small space. There were also a few health seminars that piqued my curiosity—although we didn’t get a chance to sit in on them—including “Good Feet,” in which participants get a footprint analysis and learn why feet are important to managing any pain, as well as “Detox for Health and Weight Loss.” In fact, with the ship’s jogging/walking paths, the Zumba lessons on the top deck, The Enclave and the generous fitness center—individualized personal training is available—guests can keep their waistline in check…and have more than one of Love’s creations.
PRINCESS CAYS: Recommend one of the newer shore excursions, the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve & Scenic Island Tour. It’s a 4.5-hour tour that takes them off the beaten path to explore the island and the 25-acre ecologically sustainable Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve. It’s ideal for passengers who want something other than the usual watersports fun.
In terms of staterooms, there are a total of 1,780: 1,438 with balcony, including 36 suites; 314 mini-suites; 358 deluxe balcony; 730 balcony cabins; 342 inside cabins; 780 additional/upper berths; and 36 wheelchair accessible staterooms (one suite; six mini-suites; 22 balcony; seven inside). Staterooms are quite spacious, although the bathroom is a bit tight. I am, however, giving especially high marks to the storage area, with not only plenty of closet space, but also multiple hangers (you don’t see that too often) and drawers.
Regal Princess will be offering 7-day Eastern Caribbean-Fort Lauderdale sailings through April 5, with stops at Princess Cays, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. Rates start at $629 pp.
For more on what’s hot in 2015, check out Cruising 2015.
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue-archive):
Nuptials at Sea (June 2014)
Princess Cruises: princess.com or onesourcecruises.com